Need a little something to help you sleep?

Of course you do. If you are over 50, as many of G-ma’s readers can proudly claim, it’s a virtual certainty. Sleep problems are a guaranteed conversation topic wherever people of a certain age gather, right up there with the pluses and minuses of joint replacement and the best natural digestive aids–scintillating stuff, of course.

Come, fellow sufferers, and listen to a story about the most powerful sleep aid I’ve ever known. It takes effect within minutes, can be used as often as you feel the need, requires no prescription or pharmacy card, and is essentially free. From now on, you can shun your chamomile tea, toss your Melatonin. A simple command on the TV remote puts it at your fingertips.

Just click your way to your local PBS station and find yourself an episode of Antiques Roadshow.

If you are like G-ma, you will be dozing peacefully before you can say “DVR.” In fact, I rarely launch an episode if not already under the sheets, as I prefer not to spend the night on the couch.

What’s this? Not familiar with the program? It emerged as reality television long before we ever suffered the oxymoron. Billed as PBS’ longest-running series, Roadshow tours the country to cities and historic sites with a band of experts from art auction houses, museums, and antiques dealers, who appraise a wild variety of objects brought by the local attendees. The most interesting appraisals—when something truly rare is identified at extraordinary value, or a fake is spotted and explained—are taped for the hour-long, weekly episodes. For more than two decades now, Roadshow has been surprising ordinary people with remarkable facts and history associated with seemingly every-day objects. If you are not careful, Roadshow will turn you into a dumpster-diving, estate-sale-prowling maniac, for the whole premise is that exceptional value lies hidden in the most unlikely places. That is, if you can stay awake long enough to develop such inclinations.

On any given episode, you might see a stunned elderly man, shocked at the value of a signed baseball he’s kept covered in a sock in his drawer since the Hall of Famers signed it for him while he stood at the dugout fence as an eight-year-old. The next week, here’s a woman who dug an oil painting out of a dumpster she passed as an old office building was being emptied for demolition; the dusty painting with the damaged frame is a rare early find for an international master, actually worth in the mid-six-figures. Or there’s a guy who bought a heavy volume of nature art at an estate sale for $15, only to find it contained early prints from major Impressionists and is valued at something north of the ozone layer.

Sleep habits aside, I’m a total Roadshow fangirl, having watched it long enough to recognize featured items on re-runs. I’ve been known to prowl the house the next day to excavate a small green vase from storage that I’m certain matches a find just traced to a storied Southern regional pottery hub and appraised at an auction value of $7,000. The show has turned me into one of those annoying characters who turns over china to examine clues on the bottom, even in other people’s houses. I come from a family of keepers, my house replete with “treasures” that go back generations. I just know in my bones that one of these days, I’ll learn that the dear departed great-aunt’s watercolor views of central Paris are the work of a renowned master. And my retirement will be therefore secured. If I can foist off sleep long enough to notice.IMG_7911

Because no matter how fascinated I am, no matter how beautiful the location, the lids gain weight on about the second appraisal, and with about 10 minutes absorbed, I’m dozing the sleep of the innocent.

Why should this be, when I truly am intrigued? Hard to say. Maybe it’s the production style—in such contrast to other television these days, the show lights are stable at normal levels, the conversation between appraiser and owner sounds like a nice chat in your living room. There are no loud ads to break up the flow of history, no distracting background soundtrack while the camera stands still or moves very slowly in to disclose key details. The only drama occurs on the faces of the owners who are stunned by what they learn; some shriek, some cry, and some stammer in shock. I can so see myself in their shoes.

Meanwhile, If I play my cards right, I get a about a week’s worth of sleep inducements per episode. The math works like so: I cue up the DVR to the week’s show and fast-forward to something I don’t recognize. I just start there, soak up a smattering of obscure history quietly, thoughtfully, reverently, and….zzzzzzzz. The next night, repeat.

Thanks, Antiques Roadshow. I love your mysteries revealed and still believe you’re going to make me rich someday. Until then, I’ll have to settle for the wealth of great rest.

“…by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d.”

William Shakespeare

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